Hes optimistic it will be a source of new business in the future. And Zanas focus on giving small businesses access to global markets is particularly appealing.
I know how to do work in brands that cross borders, Thornton notes. He and his partners ran an organization with 380 people in 56 offices that did $600 million dollars in media buying a year for Daimler-Chrysler in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the rest of world
Weve already had inquiries from customers looking for advice on how to get into the U.S. market, he says. So I think the international area is going to be a real opportunity for us.
In the meantime, he has his hands full closer to home, also thanks to Zana.
Finding New Business
The Zana database of government contracts has proved to br a gold mine. It includes listings of thousands of state and federal contracts out for bid including, Thornton discovered recently, more than 1,000 that had zero bids after 30 days, theoretically making them easy pickings.
Granted 95 percent [of the available contracts] are out of our scope, he says. But even if we just look at the marketing contracts, that now becomes a very powerful resource for us.
Zana lets him search for the contracts just in his area of business and only in regions where he operates. TMV found one contract out for tender by the State of Michigan. At the time of writing, Thornton felt confident the contract was his.
So thats a really cool thing, he says.
Finding out about government contracts was often difficult for small businesses in the past. If Zana has done nothing else, it has made it a lot easier, Thornton says.
It hasnt made the process of winning a contract any easier, though. Responding to a government RFP (Request for Proposal) can be all encompassing for a small firm, he says as TMV discovered. But he figures its worth the effort.
Once youre in, you have a three- or five-year no-cut contract, Thornton points out. And youd have to be an idiot not to get it extended. So the best case is 10 years of business with one contract. And the government pays net 30 days!
Hes been so busy responding to the first RFP that he hasnt yet looked closely at what else is available, but knows it includes dozens of contracts TMV could bid on and will, once it has the first piece of business sewed up.
A Whole New Business Line
In fact, hes thinking of forming a new division at TMV with dedicated staff to mine the Zana government database and bid on contracts.
Thornton feels Zana is still in the process of working out an optimal business model. It has already tinkered with pricing, he points out. TMV actually switched from a monthly plan to paying a one-time $25 fee for unlimited access to basic services.
Those basic services include the government contract database for now. He believes that when Zana gets rolling it may designate more of the high-value content as premium services, which means additional fees. But it will likely still be worth it, he implies.
Especially for start-ups with big ideas about taking on the world, Zana Network may be the ideal place to start. It provides great information to help you create a business and great opportunities for marketing services to an international audience down the road.
Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s.
This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.